|Mia Passarella, Alexandra Utpadel, Mary Jane McCloskey, Lydia McCloskey, and April Rideout|
(photo: Shelby Maticic)
"At the center of the story of Little Women is a strong, determined family that bands together through thick and thin. The same could be said of the Brelby Theatre Company who just opened a great production of the musical version of this literary classic. Brelby has their own resident company of actors who continually appear in many of their productions. This steadfast group comes together time and time again, along with a few actors new to Brelby, to create some of the most inventive theatre in the Phoenix theatre scene. They may not have elaborate sets and budgets, but the theatre they create is challenging, moving and almost always thrilling....While Allan Knee's book for the musical makes a few small changes to the famous novel, and obviously can't include every detail from it, the musical amounts to a fairly accurate representation of the major events of the novel and the end result is a joyous, uplifting experience. Not every song in the score, with lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland, is a winner, but there are plenty of varied pieces of music, many rousing ensemble numbers for the March clan and several soaring numbers for Jo....Alexandra Utpadel is splendid as Jo, giving the character an urgency and energy that is infectious...perfectly show how she is full of fire. Her vocals are just as good, instilling each song with a clear meaning as well as perfect tone, control, and power that sends the songs soaring. It's an excellent performance....Mary Jane McCloskey is touching as Marmee... and McCloskey's rich voice brings out the emotions beneath the lyrics, especially her moving act two "Days of Plenty." As the rest of the March's, April Rideout, Lydia McCloskey, and Mia Passarella are all excellent as Meg, Beth, and Amy. While Rideout doesn't get much to do as the oldest sister, she imparts a nice sense of romance in her portrayal. McCloskey brings a sweetness to Beth, as well as a closeness to the relationship she has with her sisters and her mother. Passarella is hilarious as the youngest sister Amy. She is jealous of Jo, and overly dramatic; as the youngest of the group, she also changes the most from young girl to young woman, and Passarella shows the changes in Amy expertly....Shelby Maticic stages the entire production effectively, achieving exceptional portrayals from her cast. With just a few small set pieces, Brian Maticic's set design is extremely minimal, with several pieces of wooden boards of different lengths set toward the back of the stage to depict the rising peak of the attic of the March house, where Jo goes to write. While it may not be the best design to depict the various locations of the story, it never detracts from the action and actually makes the importance of the March house, and the family within, always present throughout. William Gratza's costumes, on the other hand, are anything but minimal, with impressive, beautiful period dresses and appropriate suits for the men.
Little Women is an extremely well-known story and while the musical doesn't add anything new to this popular coming of age tale and might feel a bit episodic or melodramatic, since it mainly only includes the highlights from Alcott's novel, it still is a moving emotional journey of these young women. Brelby's production is simple, but that works to its advantage to get straight to the core of this one family's story of joys and heartbreak." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)